OLYMPIA — Attorney General Bob Ferguson urges consumers to be on the lookout for websites posing as the state’s health insurance marketplace.
The Washington Health Benefit Exchange has received dozens of complaints from Washingtonians coming across websites posing as the official health insurance marketplace. Some websites are tricking Washingtonians to get their personal information. Others provide services, but charge for things that should be free.
“My office works to protect all Washingtonians’ health care rights,” Ferguson said. “That includes warning individuals about fake health care websites before someone gets scammed. We’ve included some simple tips to spot websites posing as the office health insurance marketplace. If you come across one of them, please contact my office.”
“There will always be individuals who want to take advantage of our health insurance consumers,” said Michael Marchand, chief marketing officer for the Washington Health Benefit Exchange, which runs Washington Healthplanfinder. “Our goal is to make sure people enrolling in health coverage do so only with certified individuals and visit the correct website address at wahealthplanfinder.org.”
Enrollment for the purchase of health insurance is now open and runs through Dec. 15, 2019. During this time, Washington residents can find, compare and enroll in new health plans through the state’s official health insurance marketplace at wahealthplanfinder.org. On the website, Washingtonians can find out whether they qualify for free or low-cost coverage.
However, some scammers have created websites posing as the official marketplace to steal Washingtonian’s private information. Providing the information needed to sign up for insurance on the marketplace, such as social security numbers or birth dates, to a fake website would expose Washington residents to fraud and identity theft.
Also, consumers who use websites that are providing services will not get full information about their insurance options, including subsidies or access to Apple Health. The official marketplace for Washingtonians is the only place individuals can access tax credits and other federal assistance. The insurance plans offered by the Washington Health Benefit Exchange are the only plans to have guaranteed consumer protections and coverage, which plans purchased outside the marketplace may not.
To avoid getting scammed, follow these tips while shopping for health insurance:
- Verify the web address of the exchange: The only official web address for the online marketplace is www.wahealthplanfinder.org. Any other site with a variation on the name or with an address that ends in “.net” or “.com” is not the state’s official marketplace. If you are unsure whether you have found the official website, call Washington Healthplanfinder toll-free at 1-855-WAFINDER.
- Don’t pay for free stuff: The official marketplace for the state of Washington is the only place where you can receive tax credits, subsidies or access to free coverage through Medicaid or Washington Apple Health. Washingtonians never have to pay to sign up for free or low-cost health coverage in the marketplace.
- Reach out to free, legitimate help: Only individuals who are certified by Washington Healthplanfinder or Medicaid to assist you with the enrollment process should request personal information to complete your application during a scheduled visit. This help is always free. If you don’t know whether someone is certified to assist you, call the Washington Healthplanfinder Customer Support Center at 1-855-WAFINDER. Community volunteers trained by Medicaid can be verified by calling 1-800-562-3022 or emailing AskMedicaid@hca.wa.gov.
Dozens of individuals have complained that they reached the incorrect website as they were attempting to sign up for health insurance through the state website. Some reported entering their private information to sign up for health insurance, not realizing they were providing that information to someone outside of the Washington Health Benefit Exchange. These individuals often received unexpected calls from a company or individual not associated with the state marketplace after signing up through these websites.
To report a website posing as the health benefits exchange, file a complaint with the Washington State Attorney General's Office.
The Office of the Attorney General is the chief legal office for the state of Washington with attorneys and staff in 27 divisions across the state providing legal services to roughly 200 state agencies, boards and commissions. Visit www.atg.wa.gov to learn more.
Brionna Aho, Communications Director, (360) 753-2727; Brionna.email@example.com